NOFX @ Starland Ballroom

SAYREVILLE, NJ—NOFX hit the road this fall along with Anti-Flag and Old Man Markley. Their stop in New Jersey showed the trio bringing punk and a dash of current political matters to the Starland stage. I was running into the venue upon arrival and just made it for the start of Anti-Flag’s set. I could hear them from outside in the parking lot and the pounding that was rattling the walls.

I’m always excited to see Anti-Flag perform. I get that warm fuzzy feeling from their music even when I’m not 100 percent in the mood for politically-charged lyrics. What’s odd too is having the band’s good nature seeming so out in the open when their music can make you feel as though you want to head out to the streets and start a riot. Along that note, I wasn’t too surprised when singer/guitarist Justin Sane reported to the crowd about their visit and participation in the Occupy Wall Street protests.

With songs like “The Economy Is Suffering… Let It Die” and “One Trillion Dollars,” I couldn’t imagine Anti-Flag hitting the stage and not commenting on the protests happening on Wall Street and in other parts of the country. Even with serious issues at hand, the band lightened the mood with pretty direct crowd interaction. First, you had bassist/vocalist Chris #2 designating one young punk in the crowd as team leader. He received this honor for having the largest mohawk of the night. Then to wind things up, drummer Pat Thetic took his drums to the middle of the floor for fans to circle around. Also, no Anti-Flag set would be complete without a Clash cover and this night they played “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

NOFX came out with one of the oddest starts I’ve seen. Planned or not, Fat Mike and the boys took the stage with the house lights on, drinks in hands and a quiet cheer from the crowd. No big opening, no grand announcement of their start, just NOFX looking at each other and commenting to the sound and tech guys that they were going to start. The set list wasn’t long, but when songs are short, you can pack quite a bit in an hour or so set. There was also an effort in decorating the stage, with a light that read ‘bar’ and various banners promoting peace, love and harmony, adorning their amps. Love was certainly in the air, except for the band. Fat Mike repeatedly commented on his vocals and the band’s musicianship being not any better since day one.

NOFX even had this way of making Starland Ballroom, a large venue, feel like a small, punk rock club. With songs that spanned the band’s history, fans never stopped dancing. There was even time to throw in a cover of a Rancid tune and also to mesh a few Green Day riffs in with one of their songs.

Of course my favorite and a big hit of the night was “Stickin’ In My Eye,” a song that brought fans back into the game after a few seconds of waiting for the night’s encore. With guitarist El Hefe showing off his trumpet skills earlier, fellow guitarist Melvin had to upstage him by ending out “Theme From a NOFX Album” with a long accordion solo. This set fans off into one big sing-along, swaying to and fro and raising their empty beers cups to the boys for yet another great show.